Hell is in Hello?
The intimate surroundings of Islington’s Old Red Lion Theatre are perfect for the harrowing play Hello? Simple and direct, it centres around a 15-year-old girl who has suffered lifelong physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Played superbly by 16-year-old Julie Smith, at first she seems like any other bored teenager. But as she strikes up a conversation with a young taxi-driver over the CB your suspicions that something is not quite right are horrifically confirmed. The dialogue between the two, as the driver chats up and charms the girl, is so natural you feel almost as if you are eavesdropping on a young couple in the pub.
But as the cabbie, played convincingly by Anthony Ofoegbu, probes more deeply he opens up a frightening world of abuse which shocks him and the audience. The girl gradually breaks down, swinging from total despair to sheer anger. But as the cabbie starts to convince her the life she has led isn’t her fault and people will believe her if she tells, her father returns. The ending is so explosive and disturbing it will leave you chilled. Unable to help the girl because he doesn’t eve know her name the distraught cabbie can only listen over the CB as she is beaten and abused yet again by her father.
Will he ever hear from her again or did the friendship he had with her during the short time they spoke on the CB do more than he will ever know? It is hard to believe that such a mature piece of work came from the pen of a 17-year-old, Paul D. Smith - but it did.
Hello? is a totally convincing play and frighteningly direct. It was acted impressively by a small but extremely talented cast. And even though it may be short, lasting only 35 minutes, believe me, it will haunt you for a long time afterwards.
The play is on from 1.15pm to 1.50pm until September 10.